The majority of new international students get here by bus from O’Hare Airport, or they
fly into Willard Airport. Most are weary from traveling long distances. A ride to their
apartment is greatly appreciated! You can be the first person they meet here! Volunteers
are also needed to help new arrivals get familiarized with CU and find needed items at
local stores. Most students have furnished apartments, but some do not. Volunteers who
have access to a pickup truck and who can haul basic used furniture items are greatly
appreciated. These initial gestures of kindness can result in quickly forming friendships!
Helping new students as a summary:
Providing transportation to student's new apartments
Providing temporary housing
Providing transportation to get basic household supplies and groceries
Helping donate or move gently-used furniture
Volunteering at IFI Welcome Events
At the start of the fall semester, IFI hosts a large welcoming picnic at a park near
campus. This is for new and existing international students who have indicated some
interest in IFI’s activities. We need help with set-up, providing food, serving food, helping
with games, and simply visiting with some of the students. They are delighted with the
friendship that is extended to them at these picnics! An indoor welcoming event in
January sometimes occurs for incoming spring semester students as well. Helping with
welcoming events is also a great way to get to know other believers from our community
who share a desire to reach out internationally.
OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
Some other ways you can serve students. Contact Bill for more information.
Become a Friendship Partner
IFI is always looking for families and individuals who would like to befriend one or more international students during the school year. Friendship partners meet every 3 or 4 weeks for a meal, fun event, shopping, or other activity (or however often it can work for you and for the student). Approximately 2/3 of all international students never get the opportunity to experience an American home or to have a significant American friend during their time here in the US. As believers, we can be the ones who significantly change that statistic. IFI tries to match volunteers and students according to their personal interests and specific requests. Some of these friendships become life-long!
Become a English Conversation Partner
Most international students have good English skills, but some students, as well as spouses and children, need practice conversing in English. Consider being that conversation partner that they need. Meeting once a week for an hour or two can quickly build a friendship and open up opportune moments to naturally share about life and faith. Internationals are eager to talk about culture, holidays, hobbies, travel destinations and even the weather! Conversation can take place in person or even online. A coffee shop is a great setting for this! IFI can supply resources to help facilitate your times together.
Provide Brief Temporary Housing
Incoming students sometimes have a need for a temporary place to live for just a few days. They may have arrived a bit before their lease begins. Sometimes, a tired student arrives to an unfurnished apartment and just needs a place sleep until they can obtain a bed and get their apartment set up. Offering the hospitality of a temporary stay in your home can be a life-changing event in an international student’s life. They can experience God’s love through you in their time of need and they will never forget your kindness!
Assist during Fun Group Events
IFI offers one or two larger fun events each month to initiate friendships with international students. Day trips to state parks, area festivals, sporting events, museums, zoos, and other interesting places, provide a way to gather students, along with their family members, in hopes of getting them involved in other IFI activities. We need volunteers who are willing to drive, visit with the students, prepare food, hike, etc. Church vans, private vehicles, and willing drivers make these activities possible. You can help with these larger events as an individual, a couple, or even as a small group. Your church might even consider organizing some of their own friendship events with the help of IFI’s input.
Help with Transportation
Transportation can be a limiting factor in how IFI is able to reach out to internationals on our campus. Most students do not have cars and the city bus routes often can’t provide the answer. Drivers, using their own vehicles, are needed. We also need drivers for church vans. Most churches do not require a special license to drive their vans. We greatly appreciate the willingness of area churches in providing the use of their large vans! Also, IFI’s outreach efforts sometimes involve the need for a pickup truck to haul certain items. Individuals and churches with an available pickup truck can really help out whenever the need for hauling larger items for students comes along.
Prepare Food for Activities
Providing food for IFI activities is a great way to be a part of IFI’s outreach efforts. We will let you know when our activities are going to be needing certain food items. Some of these foods are familiar American fare. IFI will supply instructions for various ethnic foods if you are wanting to be a bit adventurous. Many of our students are vegetarians and we provide some options for them at most activities as well. From small gatherings, to large events, food is an essential friendship-building ingredient! Your kitchen can be your ministry and a great way to serve the Lord!
Host a Holiday Dinner
The holiday season, from November through early January, presents an excellent opportunity for hosting a festive dinner in your home for one or more international students. Approximately 2/3 of all international students coming to the US never get the opportunity to experience an American home during their time here. A dinner in a local home can be the highlight of their time in our community You can opt for teaming up with some friends to host this as a group if you like. It does not need to be on the exact holiday and, for that matter, it can happen at any time of the year. Just pick a theme!
Miscellaneous Student Needs
A very effective way to build friendships with international students is to assist them in practical ways. Help them find a bicycle. Teach them to drive. Solve some furniture needs. Take them to a medical appointment. Host a baby shower. Give a needy student a gift card. Refer them to a trusted mechanic for their car repairs (if you aren’t one yourself). Take them shopping occasionally for larger items that are difficult to transport on the city bus. The list goes on! There are so many doorways to friendship that can then later lead to trusted times of sharing God’s love and His redemptive plan in Christ.
Join with other Christian women from this area in facilitating a once-a-month food, crafts, fun and friendship gathering for international women. These evening gatherings are typically held in a local church dining area. A short presentation of Biblical truth is sensitively shared as well. Help is needed with planning, setup, food, craft presentations and simply visiting with international women to develop friendship. This is a very popular monthly event and a highlight of their experience here for many international women.
Create Activities for Children
Many graduate students and visiting scholars come here with their families and live in tiny apartments with their young children. There are many ways to host fun activities for these children that will be greatly appreciated by their parents. Wonderful friendships can develop through offering fun times enjoying creative crafts, games, sports, and more. These activities are best suited to occur on the weekends. They can take place in homes, area activity centers, baseball fields, local church gyms, and even at the YMCA.
Host a Group Gathering
Consider opening your home for a small Bible discussion group or for other occasional activities. Hosting doesn’t require leading the activity. Having volunteers who are willing to offer their home to meet is an incredible blessing and is really needed for outreach! IFI is also looking for other venues in which to meet, such as community centers, churches, rooms at restaurants, etc. Outdoor spaces offer warm-weather potential for group activities as well. Rural homes and farm settings can facilitate some enjoyable activities.
Facilitate Bible Discussion
Bible discussion facilitators are a vitally needed link in reaching students for Christ. Most Bible groups use the Discovery Bible Study method. This approach encourages students to search for life’s answers themselves, through discussion of a series of selected DBS scriptural passages. Facilitators guide that discovery process by asking a few basic questions, rather than preparing involved teachings. The atmosphere for these gatherings must be welcoming and non-condemning. Food, fun and friendship should always be a part of the evening. A weekly or bi-weekly gathering is most productive.
Disciple Seeking Students
Students who have come to faith in Christ, or who are seriously considering a commitment, need the encouragement of committed believers. Helping to disciple them regularly, during their window of opportunity here, is essential, especially for those returning to countries that are unfavorable to faith in Christ. Helping them understand their identity in Christ and familiarizing them with the content and promises of God’s word can make the difference in their ability to stand strong when they move on. Your trusted connection with them might even continue beyond their stay here.
Key Volunteers and Church Liaisons
A key volunteer is willing to be involved more frequently and desires to help in a variety of ways. They can be focused on one reoccurring type of outreach activity, or help with several different outreach efforts. Key volunteers see international student outreach as one of their priorities in serving Christ. A church liaison (point person) is a connecting link for IFI with their church. Through their established relationships within their congregation, they can find others with an interest in international outreach and they can coordinate volunteers, needed items, and other details for various IFI activities.
Join IFI's Prayer Team
Prayer partners are essential to IFI’s effectiveness. Do you feel called to pray for the hearts of international students to become open to Christ on this campus and others? Do you have a desire to pray for individual students and their family members? Are you willing to pray for IFI’s outreach efforts and for the volunteers performing them? Would you pray for IFI’s leadership? We really need your involvement! Prayer partners will be kept informed of the various prayer needs and will meet online or in person periodically.
Partner in Financial Support
As the number of international students that IFI connects with on our campus continues to grow, so does the need for the ongoing growth of resources to express Christ’s love to them in many tangible ways. Partnering financially is a tremendous way to help IFI’s ministry, even if you are located far from this campus! Join in this vital part of the ministry here at the University of Illinois by giving here!
IFI Staff Opportunities
Are you called to join IFI’s staff here? Perhaps you know of someone who would be a perfect fit? With the international outreach potential that our campus has, adding more full and part-time staff for our U of I outreach is greatly needed! Most staff raise their own support. View current career opportunities for Champaign-Urbana or contact Bill Erickson by email at .